Jesus was a radical. In this passage, both the Pharisees and the disciples test Jesus. At first the Pharisees confront Jesus asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” Jesus turns the question back at them asking, “What did Moses command you?” They allege that Moses permitted this possibly as a special case. The query prompts Jesus to explain that a man shall leave his mother and father (and his village/tribe/ethnicity) and be joined to his wife. The man must accept his wife completely; they become one. Jesus sums the matter up saying, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”
Consider this, if a man does not stay married to his wife and she to him, forsaking birth family and tribe, then perhaps this is a union created by humans. How many human unions are based on a need for togetherness, lust, politics, or convenience? Such unions are announced in the presence of God but are not of God. A union truly created by God, must not, perhaps cannot, be sundered. Sound radical?
The next two verses are just as radical as the disciples challenge Jesus on the same matter and he says, “whosoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her. (Note that he says “against her” and not “against God.”) This is not consistent with the customs of that time which allowed a husband to take more than one wife. The text becomes even more radical as Jesus continues, “and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” A husband divorcing his wife is controversial in the eyes of both Pharisees and disciples. A wife divorcing her husband is unthinkable and they do not even ask about it. But Jesus, radical in approach, treats man and woman alike and assigns responsibilities to each partner in a relationship..
After this exchange, Mark reports (v. 13) that “they” brought young children to Jesus that he should touch them. The disciples rebuked those that brought them (creating a parallel to the Pharisees who like the disciples saw themselves as the guardians of propriety), but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whosoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Perhaps this too is radical, too. Consider it!
Lord, as this day begins, let me be mindful of the way Jesus saw both men and women, each with rights and responsibilities toward the other. Let me see and respect the unions God has made and let me approach all with the love, curiosity, and openness of a small child—that I may see You more clearly. Amen.